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Zondagh Suggests Law Changes

OPINION: Alan Zondgh is a great thinker on the great game and he is concerned about the game and its future.


At this time, there is a meeting of the Law Review Group at World Rugby to look at the game and its laws, especially with reference to player safety and welfare. Jaco Peyper is the referee in a group that includes coaches, directors of rugby, medical practitioners, representatives from the players’ union, and former players.

Zondagh’s ideas antedate the meeting and do not form a part of the meeting. They are entirely his ideas.

We give only some of Zondagh’s suggestions to stimulate thought. The suggestions that follow are Zondagh’s and only Zondagh’s.

Here are some recommendations that he believes could assist in improving the game of rugby for the future.


1. The referees and TMOs


1.1 The referee and the two assistant referees/touch judges are responsible to apply the laws between the four lines in the field of play. No TMO gets involved during the game. The three of them must be held responsible for applying the laws during the game.

Reason: it will speed up play and will assist to minimise all the stoppages in rugby.

1.2 The TMO’s job is as follows:

*During the match he will assist the referee with what happens when crossing the goal-line. Try or no try. Video footage to be used to assist.


*During the match he will notify the referee of dangerous or foul play only (by radio). The TMO will give number of the player and the sentence. No video footage will be shown during the match for play in the field of play.

Reason: it will speed up play

*After the match the TMO will work through the video to identify any foul play by players. The TMO will prepare the video clip and sentence and send it to the relevant team for action. Red card and sentence. This decision is final.

Reason: Players will know that any transgressions will be picked up and this will assist in minimising foul play and off the ball infringements.

1.3 Referees must be strict on…
• defenders behind the last man’s feet at rucks
• binding of loose-forwards at scrum time until the ball is out
• defenders at line-out crossing the 15m before the ball is out
• The tackler releasing the ball carrier immediately
• Ball carrier placing the ball immediately
• Players in front of the kicker must stand still (not move at all) until put onside before chasing

Reason: It will improve attacking play

1.4 Referees must stop coaching on the field and minimise their talking and instructions. Decision to be made what to say when and the definition of each call.
* “Tackle” – when the tackle is made – to give a clear indication to the start of offside lines and gate.
* “Play” – when the ball is out and defenders can put pressure on the attack.
* “Crouch” – the start of the scrum.
* “Box” – when box kick is kicked and 5m rule applies.
* “Stay” – when kick is made and players in front of the kicker has to stand “dead still” until put onside.

Reason: Players will learn to play within the laws of the game without being told what to do and transgressing the laws until they are told otherwise.

2. The tackle
2.1 Firstly define “the tackle”
A tackle is when a defender tackles the ball carrier and they both go to ground, go off their feet and ball carrier held by the tackler on the ground.
* Both players are then deemed as “dead players”.
* Offside lines and the “gate” is applicable immediately.
* Any players (attackers or defenders) approaching the tackle area must join through the “gate” (parallel to the touchlines). Cannot join at an angle.
* Attacker must release (by placing or passing) the ball immediately.
* Defender must release the ball carrier and roll away (get out) and not allowed to get up on his feet to play the ball. He can take up a position behind the offside line as part of the defensive line.

Reason: It will simplify and clean up the tackled area.

2.2 It is not a tackle if the ball carrier runs into the defender and the defender pushes the ball carrier to the ground and the defender stays on his feet.
* The defender can then play the ball. Work for a turnover as long as he stays on his feet.
* The ball carrier can get up on his feet and continue playing without releasing the ball. This is not a tackle.
* No offside lines. It stays general play.

Reason: It gets rid of the indecision by referees when the defender must release the ball carrier or not.

IMPORTANT: A maul cannot turn into a tackle. This is currently the situation if a ball carrier is held up by defenders while on his feet. As soon as his knee touches the ground the referee shouts “release”. Then the defenders have to release.
This should not be allowed.
The benefit must go to the defensive side.
Firstly the attacker made a wrong decision to go into the contact.
The “use it or lose it” principle must apply. If the ball does not appear on the attacking side it’s a scrum to the defenders.
A maul cannot change into a tackle.

2.3 Players approaching the tackled area
* Must come through the gate (parallel to the touchlines).
* Must stay on their feet.
* Can play the ball with their hands (attackers and defenders).
* Any players going off their feet onside or offside – Penalty.

Reason: More players will get involved in the tackled area to fight for the ball. Less players on defence.

2.4 Clearing players off the ball in the collision area.
* This is the most dangerous part of the current game.
* It’s riddled with obstruction, illegal tackling of players that are not part of the ruck, dangerous rucking, missile type clearing, sealing off etc…
* Can only clear a player by rolling him off the ruck to the side or using hands and arms to push him off the ruck (same technique as used in a tackle) while staying on his feet. Players are not allowed to clear a player and land on the ground (off their feet) beyond the ruck – Penalty against the player landing on the ground on the other side.

Reason: It will minimise the “missile type clearing” and thuggery at rucks.

2.5 Ruck changes to NO Ruck
If the defending side manages to get all their players out of the ruck (or tackle area), the ruck is over and the referee calls “PLAY”

Reason: This will speed up play and force the attacking side to act faster.

2.6 Simple decision at tackle
* On ground – no play
* On feet and onside – can play

3. The maul – needs an overhaul

3.1 First change the law that allows a team to kick for touch at a penalty and get possession at the line-out.
* They either go for distance and territory but then it’s opposition ball.
* If they want a line-out they take it opposite the penalty mark.

Reason: It will minimise mauling near the goal-line which results in penalties and subsequent yellow cards. It has also become a boring part of the game.

3.2 Sack the maul anywhere anytime, but the law of coming in from the side still applies.

Reason: This will minimise the number of penalties at the maul. Teams will find ways and means to keep mauling. The maul will become more dynamic and play will be faster.
If a team wants a penalty all they have to do is call a maul. Nine out of ten times the team mauling gets a penalty.

Note: In my 40 years of coaching I have never experienced an injury in the maul at training or in a match after it collapsed.

4. Card system needs a revamp – too many yellow cards.

4.1 No cards for professional fouls.

4.2 Yellow card for “dangerous play”.
* Player off the field for 10 minutes but replaced immediately.
* Carded player can return – decision of the coaching team.
* Yellow card is logged with player – second yellow card automatic one-match suspension.

Reason: This will make sure rugby is played 15 vs 15 most of the time.

4.3 Red card for “foul play”
* Player off the field for 10 minutes – may not be replaced immediately. Can be replaced with another player after 10 minutes. Red card player cannot return to the field.
* Player that received red card will be sentenced by the judiciary.

Reason: This will make sure rugby is played 15 vs 15 most of the time and players will be more cautious to commit foul play.

4.4 Professional fouls
* Create a Red Zone in the 22m areas.
* All penalties by the defending side in the 22m area will be worth four points kicking at the posts. But the penalty has to be taken inside the 22m area. Cannot move the position for the kick outside the 22m line for a better angle.
* The attacking team can still choose a scrum, line-out opposite the mark, tap penalty (quick or slow) or kick.

We will publish some more Zondagh suggestions soon.

****Please, note: None of these suggestions is currently law. All of these suggestions are just that – suggestions.

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